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This page was last updated on: June 20, 2013
  from Kim Komando. 

HDTV 101: What you need to know

In the past few years, television has undergone a revolution. Thanks to HDTV (high-definition television), we can get unbelievably clear pictures. But choosing an HDTV set can be confusing.

High-definition refers to the resolution of an image. There are a couple of HDTV resolutions: 1920x1080 (1080i and 1080p) or 1280x720 (720p).

You won't notice a difference between 1080 or 720. These numbers refer to the number of rows of pixels. Standard televisions only display 330 rows of pixels. You'll notice THAT difference.

The p means progressive, while i means interlaced. Rows of pixels are refreshed in a series (1,2,3, etc.) with progressive resolutions. Interlaced sets skip lines when they refresh (1,3,5, etc. and then 2,4,6, etc.). Either works fine. Don't worry about it.

Some HD signals are broadcast in 1080i; others are 720p. There are no 1080p signals yet. Your set will convert the signals to the correct resolution. Again, don't worry about it.

Most HDTV sets have a ratio of 16:9. That means they measure 16 inches horizontally to every 9 inches vertically. Standard sets are 4:3, or 4 inches horizontally to every 3 vertically.

High-definition broadcasts are generally in 16:9. But most broadcasts are still in 4:3. You can watch either on HDTV sets. With 4:3, you'll see bars on both sides of the screen.

To receive HD broadcasts, you need an HDTV tuner. Most sets include tuners, but some, called monitors, do not. If you have cable or satellite, you don't need a built-in tuner. You'll rent one from the cable or satellite company. In that case, buy a monitor, if you can find one. This will save you money. To receive over-the-air signals, you'll need a set with a tuner. You'll also need an antenna.

There are different types of HD sets: projection, plasma, LCD and CRT. Each has disadvantages, but they're all good. Projection TVs are bulkier than plasma and LCD. You can't mount them on a wall.

Projection sets are relatively inexpensive. DLP is the most common type. You'll also encounter LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon), LCD (liquid crystal display) and CRT (cathode ray tube). With DLP, you may notice a rainbow effect. Check the TV carefully before buying.

Plasma and LCD sets are wall-mountable. Both historically have had drawbacks. But their drawbacks have mostly been solved or mitigated.

LCD sets are lighter than plasmas and consume less power. Until recently, they had problems with smearing--motion appeared blurry. Newer sets are less likely to have this problem.

Response time is important. This is the time it takes for the pixels to turn on and off. Aim for an 8ms (milliseconds) or less response time. Smearing is less likely with fast sets.

Black levels are sometimes a problem with LCDs. Gradations of black can be difficult to see in dimly lit shows.

Smaller LCDs sell for well under $1,000. Larger models are more expensive than plasma sets.

Some consider LCDs superior to plasmas. But plasmas have beautiful pictures. The smallest plasmas are 37 inches. If you need something smaller, shop for an LCD.

Reflections are a problem with plasma sets. They work better in darker rooms. Historically, they've also suffered from burn in. A static image displayed too long would become permanently visible on the screen. This is less likely with newer models.

CRTs range up to 34 inches. These look
similar to traditional televisions. Many say CRT sets offer the best picture. But this technology is dying.

Why? CRT sets are massive. The tube can be two feet deep on large sets. Some weigh almost 200 pounds!

HDTV prices are falling rapidly. If you've shopped for an HDTV in the past, look again. You'll be amazed at today's prices.

To check current prices on various HDTVs, use my Buying Guide.

Don’t keep these tips to yourself! Be sure to tell a friend or two what’s available free for the taking through our newsletters and my Web site. Thank you!

                                        See you tomorrow!

                                       Thanks Kim :)


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